Inside Mines

Obama Campaign Rents Campus Facility
Presidential candidate Barack Obama spoke in Mines’ Lockridge Arena on September 16 to a crowd of more than 2,000 people as part of an independent rally organized by the Obama Campaign. (more...)

Enlisting High School Students in Quest for H2 Producing Algae
In an effort to involve high school students in the quest for alternative sources of energy, Mines PhD candidate Jonathan Meuser helped develop the Lunchbox Lab—a portable box equipped with the tools necessary to determine if various algae strains produce hydrogen. (more..)

Geobiology—Changing the Face of Geology
In June, Mines hosted “The Energetics of Life,” a geobiology symposium, that included presentations by six geobiologists who shared their knowledge about microbial life and survival in extreme environments. The public symposium drew more than 175 participants from institutions along the Front Range. (more...)

Mines Joins NREL's Management Board
Mines will soon be represented on the National Renewable Energy Laboratory’s management board, following the Department of Energy’s announcement that it had selected the Alliance for Sustainable Energy to manage the lab. (more...)

Energy Education Lecture Targets General Public
In an effort to educate the general public about the country’s energy challenges, Mines geophysics professor Roel Snieder developed “The Global Energy Challenge,” an informational public lecture focused on energy issues and the opportunities associated with the energy industry. (more...)

Mines at the DNC
Mines was visible during at least two events held in Denver during the Democratic National Convention in August, The Green Frontier Fest and the Sustainability in the Rockies Fair. (more...)



N
ew AVP for Advancement Named
The CSM Foundation recently welcomed J. David Mays as assistant vice president for university advancement. Mays has been involved in charitable estate planning for more than 17 years. (more...)



In Brief...

Announcements and addiitonal news items. (more...)

Obama Campaign Rents Campus Facility


Presidential candidate Barack Obama spoke in Mines’ Lockridge Arena on September 16 to a crowd of more than 2,000 people as part of an independent rally organized by the Obama Campaign. The campaign rented the facility, arranged the logistics and distributed the majority of tickets on a first-come, first-served basis, although a number were set aside for the Mines community. After the school’s tickets had been distributed through a campus-wide lottery, those who wanted to follow the proceedings but were unable to get in could watch a live video shown in the Green Center.

“Our students had a great opportunity today to engage in a national policy discussion on issues that will impact their professional lives,” said Nigel Middleton, provost and senior vice president for strategic enterprises. “The arrival of a presidential candidate on campus has stimulated the exchange of important ideas in a very positive way.”

Obama came to campus the day after vice presidential candidate Sarah Palin spoke in Jefferson County. Palin reiterated many of the ideas included in her acceptance speech and spoke of her knowledge of the West and her belief in small government. Obama’s speech focused on the regulation of financial markets and economic policy. “We were in communication with the McCain Campaign about renting them the facility, but ultimately they selected a different venue,” said Marsha Williams, who heads up the school’s Public Relations office.

Following the event, President Bill Scoggins wrote to the campus community: “We were given a tremendous opportunity to promote Colorado School of Mines, and we should all be proud of the results. Next time it may be the other political party that elevates this school’s recognition in the world, and we welcome that prospect."

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Enlisting High School Students in Quest for H2 Producing Algae

In an effort to involve high school students in the quest for alternative sources of energy, Mines PhD candidate Jonathan Meuser helped develop the Lunchbox Lab—a portable box equipped with the tools necessary to determine if various algae strains produce hydrogen. “Algae have enormous potential for turning water and sunlight into fuel much more efficiently than food crops and without competing for the same land, water or nutrients,” says Meuser. Using the Lunchbox Lab, small teams of high school students can test individual strains of algae for hydrogen production and input their results on a project website. “Thus, high school students could become engaged in real science and contribute directly to the scientific community,” Meuser points out.

The lab works by sensing hydrogen production stimulated by light. It consists of glass beakers, an LED light source and airtight stoppers outfitted with chemochromic hydrogen sensors that were developed at the National Renewable Energy Laboratory, where Meuser once worked as an intern. When algae are injected into the beakers, the stoppers are put in place and the beaker is exposed to light. Upon light exposure, some algae strains begin to produce hydrogen, which turns the chemochromic sensors blue. The pressure sensor can be used to control the amount of light the algae are exposed to, thus allowing for comparisons between experimental conditions. The lab is equipped to test up to seven strains of algae at a time.

Currently, the Lunchbox Lab is on exhibit at various art galleries and museums. These exhibits have raised curiosity in this teaching and research instrument and, according to Meuser, “There has been tremendous interest on the part of students and high school teachers.” Meuser designed and built the lab with the help of Amy Franceschini and Michael Swain of Futurefarmers, a San Francisco-based art collective. While there are no plans yet for mass production of the Lunchbox Lab, Meuser said they are looking for sponsors to help take the project further.

Getting the broader community involved in a shared scientific project, an approach dubbed “citizen science”, has great potential. “The use of citizen science networks often allows scientists to accomplish research objectives more feasibly than would otherwise be possible,” says Franceschini. “These projects aim to promote public engagement with the research, as well as with science in general.”

Citizen science using the Lunchbox Lab would be especially useful in the search for hydrogen producing algae because there are literally thousands of strains that have not yet been tested for hydrogen production. And only particular strains produce hydrogen; the photobiological process requires a specific enzyme that interrupts the photosynthetic reaction, isolating hydrogen before it is bound to carbon. As large as the task may seem, testing algae for hydrogen production is important because hydrogen is a promising renewable fuel option. “The task of carefully testing each algae strain for its unique abilities is an enormous undertaking,” said Meuser, who believes this project could be the key to advancing a critical line of scientific inquiry.

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Geobiology—Changing the Face of Geology

In June, Mines hosted “The Energetics of Life,” a geobiology symposium, that included presentations by six geobiologists who shared their knowledge about microbial life and survival in extreme environments. The public symposium drew more than 175 participants from institutions along the Front Range including the National Renewable Energy Laboratory, the University of Colorado, the U.S. Geological Survey, the University of Wyoming and Mines.

The symposium was a part of the International Geobiology Course, a month-long summer course that focuses on the interactions between microorganisms and the environment and examines the imprints left from microbial life in the rock record. Now in its sixth year, the course is sponsored by Mines, the Agouron Institute and the National Science Foundation. Twenty students are selected to participate every year from an applicant pool of more than 75.

Students meet at the University of Southern California before heading out on a week-long working field trip. Led by John Spear, assistant professor of environmental science and engineering at Mines, this year’s trip took the group to Yellowstone National Park where students and instructors collected samples such as mud, sediment and microbial mat (pond scum) to be examined in the lab. After the field trip, students accompanied Spear to Mines to analyze the samples in the molecular microbial ecology lab. Students learned how to extract DNA from the samples and sequence one gene of specific interest—the 16S rRNA gene. Every living organism has this specific gene, although it is slightly different in each species, making it a useful marker for identification. The group’s next stop was the Wrigley Center for Environmental Studies on Catalina Island, CA, where the focus was on metagenomics, the analysis of microbial DNA extracted directly from organisms collected from nature.

“Metagenomics will change the face of modern biology. Not only does it tell us about the evolution of life, but it will also reveal new insights into human medicine, crime investigation and forensics,” said Spear. Scientists and researchers are just beginning to understand the importance of geobiology and how interactions between microorganisms and the environment shape the evolution of the earth. And according to Spear, “Geobiology is the changing face of geology. We now realize that a lot of geologic processes from oil formation to weathering have a huge biologic component.” Spear will co-direct the International Geobiology Course next year and Mines will host another symposium in June 2009.

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Mines Joins NREL's Management Board


Mines will soon be represented on the National Renewable Energy Laboratory’s management board, following the Department of Energy’s announcement that it had selected the Alliance for Sustainable Energy to manage the lab. In addition to Mines, the ASE board governing NREL will include representatives from the University of Colorado at Boulder, Colorado State University, MIT and Stanford.

ASE is a limited partnership owned and operated equally by the Midwest Research Institute and Battelle, the two non-profit organizations that have managed NREL jointly for the past 10 years. The three Front Range universities are all members of the Colorado Renewable Energy Collaboratory, which also includes NREL. “One of the strengths of ASE’s proposal is the deepening of NREL’s connections with the Colorado research and business communities,” said John Poate, vice president for research and technology transfer at Mines. “Colorado is going to see new outreach and new investments from NREL and ASE that will generate real economic—and academic—benefits.”

Among other objectives, ASE’s winning proposal outlined the following goals for NREL:
• Driving market-relevant technology innovations by partnering with industry, academic and governmental researchers across the nation and around the world.
• Accelerating commercialization and deployment through new business strategies and partnership arrangements to rapidly move revolutionary innovations from concept to consumer.
• Serving as the definitive source of objective analysis on renewable energy for the DOE and the private sector to accelerate achievement of national energy goals.
• Creating the Campus of the Future with facilities and infrastructure that showcase sustainable energy on the NREL site and in nearby partnering facilities.

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Energy Education Lecture Targets General Public

In an effort to educate the general public about the country’s energy challenges, Mines geophysics professor Roel Snieder developed “The Global Energy Challenge,” an informational public lecture focused on energy issues and the opportunities associated with the energy industry. According to Snieder, the presentation “sketches the tension between increased energy demand, peak oil, the associated challenge in curbing climate change, and actions that we can take towards a sustainable energy system.”

The lecture, presented at least 30 times since its debut in January, has been well-received by audiences ranging from K-12 to college students, and community members in service organizations such as Rotary clubs. Snieder developed the presentation while working for the Global Climate and Energy Project at Stanford University. “The presentation gives ideas for positive action that teachers, students, businessmen, consumers and citizens can take to deal with our energy challenges and turn them into opportunities,” said Snieder. He noted that much action can be taken now to deal with energy challenges; and public engagement and education will aid in the effort to develop and implement an effective plan. “We tend to respond with technological fixes to challenges. And technology is indeed important, but behavioral changes are an integral part of rising to meet the energy challenge,” Snieder said.

Snieder begins the lecture by explaining three of the major energy challenges that face the world today. He covers worldwide energy consumption, energy sources, and controlling carbon dioxide emissions associated with the use of hydrocarbons. “Whether peak oil production occurs one year from now, or 10 years from now, or 30 years from now—we need to prepare for it,” said Snieder. Snieder’s presentation is freely available for download at www.mines.edu/~rsnieder/Global_Energy.html.

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Mines at the DNC

Mines was visible during at least two events held in Denver during the Democratic National Convention in August. The Green Frontier Fest, held outdoors August 24 in the Sculpture Park of the Denver Performing Arts Complex, celebrated healthy and green living. It showcased everything from major renewable energy technologies to everyday products and services. Mines admissions and graduate school staff manned a booth among the fest’s interactive and educational exhibits, farmers market, children’s area, eco-carnival games, music, entertainment and special presentations.

Additionally, Mines was invited to attend the Sustainability in the Rockies Fair hosted by CH2M Hill at INVESCO Field at Mile High on August 25. The event focused on issues and solutions that both private and public institutions are pursuing in support of building sustainable communities. People from municipalities around the world participated, and performer Willie Nelson provided entertainment.

John Poate, Bob Siegrist, Tony Dean, Dag Nummedal, Tissa Illangasekare and Peter Han attended and answered questions regarding the school’s research and education programs in energy and water. Mines has enjoyed a strong partnership with CH2M Hill. Ralph Peterson, chairman and chief executive officer of CH2M Hill, received an honorary doctor of engineering from Mines in 2000 and has served on the Mines Advisory Board for the past five years.

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New AVP for Advancement Named

The CSM Foundation recently welcomed J. David Mays as assistant vice president for university advancement. Mays has been involved in charitable estate planning for more than 17 years, with experience at Colorado State University, the College of William and Mary, the University of Wyoming and Northern Arizona University. He earned his bachelor’s degree from Wake Forest University and holds a JD from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill School of Law.


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In Brief...

Graduate student Jackson Lee was awarded the Dorothy Bertine Internship. The annual award provides a one-time $10,000 stipend to the most outstanding applicant to the Edna Bailey Sussman Fund.

Steve Hill, adjunct associate professor of geophysics, was elected president of the Society of Exploration Geophysicists.

Paul Martin, professor in the Department of Mathematical and Computer Sciences, gave the Institute of Mathematics and its Applications (IMA) Lighthill Lecture in April. The annual lecture commemorates Sir James Lighthill who was the founding president of the IMA. Lighthill also organized the first British Applied Mathematics Colloquium in 1959, and this year’s lecture was a part of the Colloquium’s 50th anniversary.

John Speer, professor of metallurgical and materials engineering and a member of the Steel Center, joined the Office of Research and Technology Transfer starting September 1. Speer, who will spend 30 percent of his time as associate vice president for research, will assist in overseeing the development and implementation of research policies and procedures, and work with the Research Management Council, the Research Council, and the Technology Transfer Advisory Board.

American Iron & Steel Institute, and Association for Iron & Steel Technology Foundation’s “Ferrous Metallurgy Education Today” awarded a Design Grant for the academic year 2008-2009 to a team of Mines metallurgical and mechanical engineering students and their professor, Kip Findley, for their proposal titled “Weldability, Processing, Microstructure and Fracture Toughness Relationships in Advanced High Strength Steel.” Their proposal was submitted in response to the design theme “Technologies for Welding of New Generation Steels.” The maximum allowable time for the project is one year beginning in the fall of 2008. The maximum grant per award will be $50,000.

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